Articles

Should the researcher have a view before the research?

In conjoint analysis, market research on April 25, 2012 by sdobney

People pay researchers to go out and find out what consumers or customers or potential customers might think of an idea or a product or an advert or other piece of marketing. The job of the researcher is therefore to design the survey, collect the opinions and report and interpret those opinions back to the end client. But along the way, researchers pick up quite a lot of knowledge and understanding of what works and what doesn’t work. So when you’re asked to research something your experience suggests won’t do too well, should you say or bite your tongue?

It’s even more complicated, because if the researcher says something, there’s a chance they won’t get the research project in the first place. So should the researcher try something they don’t think will work?

Of course, it’s not that simple. The world has a range of opinions and, buy and large, the researcher is not in the target market so the researcher’s views themselves aren’t necessarily any more right or wrong than any other member of the public. Most researchers will have stories of products or ideas that they thought would be great only to find skeptical consumers that ripped the idea to shreds, or where products looked like obvious failures only to find shrewd marketing and product design had found a deeply hidden niche in the marketplace.

So perhaps the best way through this tangled knot is not to raise personal views so much as to raise questions that seem pertinent. Well thought out ideas or concepts will tend to have been kicked around between the design team and the marketing and sales teams and there will be good answers to good questions. As a result the research will be much more focused and much better designed because the team will have a strong idea of what they need to know and why.

In other situations, like the design of conjoint studies where the definition of all the options needs to be strongly nailed down, the process of asking the questions, showing the research design and questionnaire where ideas need to be communicated with customers actually helps the planning and thought processes. To get research designed well, we often run workshops where we get clients to tell us about their customers and where the touchpoints are and what it is the customers are looking for. You’d be surprised. Often lots of this information is tacit within the organisation and because it’s never fully discussed or disclosed, different views or perceptions of what the customer really wants can be pulling the business in several directions at once. So a researcher doesn’t necessarily trust their own personal view (people are a diverse and wonderful in their range of needs and wants), but they have to have good questions to ask.

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